On Oct. 24, the Zips will take a break from MAC play for a rematch with Big East doormat Syracuse in the Carrier Dome.
2008 recap: Aside from two upset wins over Louisville and Notre Dame, 2008 was a disgraceful year for Syracuse. The first warning sign should have been when Chris Jacquemain and Alex Allen combined for five touchdowns in a 42-28 home loss to the Zips. The biggest problem was a passing game with all the firepower of a wet matchstick. Quarterback Cameron Dantley averaged 118 yards per game and threw only 11 touchdowns in his 11 starts. The top receiver Donte Davis averaged only 26 yards per game, which is less than Dennis Kennedy's 26.2 receiving yards in 2008. Behind Curtis Brinkley, the running game was OK. But when you give up 414 yards of total offense per game, you'll get buried early and feel the pressure to pass. The Orange finished at 3-9, including a win over a Division I-AA team.
What they lost: Dantley is gone, for what it's worth. But losing Brinkley will hurt. Syracuse must replace three offensive linemen and four members of its front seven defensive players, including sacks leader Nick Santiago and tackles leader Jake Flaherty.
2009 preview: What's the best remedy for a pathetic passing game? The offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints, that's who. Doug Marrone is the Orange's new head coach. Syracuse will get national attention because of its quarterback, Greg Paulus -- the four-year point guard at Duke, who has a year of football eligibility. ... Antwon Bailey beat out Copley High School grad Delone Carter for the starting tailback position. Bailey averaged 6.7 yards on his 33 carries in 2008. ... Arthur Jones will anchor the defensive line. He made a team-high 12 tackles for loss in 2008. The secondary has a chance to improve by returning three starters, but they were very poor tacklers last year. That must improve. ... The Orange will play seven of its first eight games at the Carrier Dome.
How the Orange will test the Zips: Syracuse has a bye week before hosting Akron on Oct. 24. The Zips will be coming off a tough road game at Buffalo. If Paulus and Marrone can make wine from the dirty water that was Syracuse's passing game, they will have a decent offense.
How the Zips will test the Orange: There are so many "ifs" about Syracuse that you would have to stack them up on their ends to reach a possibility that Akron doesn't score at least 30. To believe Paulus can take four years off from college football and dominate is ludicrous. And dominate he must, in order to keep the Orange's offense up with Akron's.
Way-too-early prediction: Syracuse's defense gave up five touchdowns to the Zips in 2008. The defenders tackled like a flag-football game. That defense lost two of its best players. Akron's offense has another year of experience. Barring a vast turnover disparity, this should be a slaughter. Akron 49, Syracuse 28
Dan Kadar and I toured InfoCision Stadium today. He is editing our video. I think you will really enjoy it. I have a bunch of notes, too, but I'll wait until the video is ready, which will be this weekend or Monday.
Akron is the No. 6 team in the nation, according to College Soccer News' preseason poll.
Coach Keith Dambrot will coach at the Cavaliers' free agent camp later this month.